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The trouble with alts

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Image by luc legay via Flickr

I saw a post on Mashable about Everloop and decided to check it out.  The site is intended for students ages 8-13 but your 14-15 year olds and children under 8 can use the site as well, provided they comply to the terms of service.  I decided to register as a student to see what the process looks like.  And that’s where things started to get weird.

When a child registers, they choose a name and input their birthdate and a parent’s email.  Of course, I entered in my own email address and clicked continue.  With that, I was able to get into the site and begin establishing myself.  Communication is disabled though, until the parent confirms the email address and registers.  After checking my email and clicking on the link, I was asked to register as the parent.  I loved that I was able to see what information my ‘child’ provided and even make changes (if they lied about their age for example).  It’s the next step that began to trouble me.  After putting in my name and basic info, I was asked to put in my billing information.  Huh?  This is a free site.  Why should I enter in my billing information?  Well, it turns out they have a virtual economy, which can be bought into with US dollars.  No worries there, but there’s also a second reason. In order to confirm that you really are an adult, you have two choices: Pay them $1 via credit card or put in the last four digits of your social security number.  This gave me pause.  To be honest, I think this step right there is going to be a stumbling block for many parents.  Would you want to put in your credit card information for a site that your child will be using?  Or your social, even if it is just the last four?

And right there lies a big part of the problem with alts like Everloop.  Why do you join a social network?  Some people may join just to explore, but most join because their friends, family and colleagues are there.  The same thing goes for students.  They might join a site like Edmodo.com if their teachers are using it, or for a class project…  but otherwise they’re going to go where their friends are.  And that’s Facebook.  And Twitter.  And YouTube.

Believe me, I’m all for alts.  In many schools, sites like Facebook are blocked.  And it’s important for us to be teaching about social networking, both from a safety perspective as well as a ‘setting our students up to succeed’ perspective.  But there’s little impetus for a student to jump into a moderated community that their friends aren’t on, even more so if their parents need to jump through a good number of hoops to get signed up.

It’s discouraging.  I’m a fan of alternatives to social sites, but for the most part, I think they’re always going to be relegated to niche communities.  The lure of the major players is just too strong to pretend that students won’t still flock to them.

  • The trouble with alts http://bit.ly/hoSV9y #edtech

  • The trouble with alts:
    Image by luc legay via Flickr

    I saw a post on Mashable about Everloop and decided to ch… http://bit.ly/hZoKpM

    RAMartin

    2/16/2011

  • The trouble with alts – by @teach42 http://www.teach42.com/2011/02/16/the-trouble-with-alts/ #everloop #socialnetwork

    Baiba

    2/21/2011

  • Some people may join just to explore,good for article

    beach-home

    2/25/2011

  • I really find it odd when in the first place it says that the site is free to join and then later on once you already put some of your information the problem are already popping out.. anyways, thanks for letting us know about this thing.

  • Thanks for the review Steve. I too heard about the site and signed up for an account but didn’t take it much further than the initial signup, when the asked for the parental confirmation. Like you, I thought it just felt wired. But now I’m wondering how many adults are also registered users of the site? Seems like marketing a social platform to young children is a dangerous proposition.

    James Gubbins

    3/2/2011

  • The trouble with alts – by @teach42 http://www.teach42.com/2011/02/16/the-trouble-with-alts/ #juandon #elearning #edchat #web20 #education

    juandoming

    3/3/2011

  • RT @juandoming: The trouble with alts – by @teach42 http://www.teach42.com/2011/02/16/the-trouble-with-alts/ #juandon #elearning #edchat …

    rrhhgranada

    3/3/2011

  • Nice post.Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful!red bull hats

    red bull hats

    3/4/2011

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    Spline Broaches

    3/4/2011

  • Currently reading Everloop review – The trouble with alts – by @teach42 http://www.teach42.com/2011/02/16/the-trouble-with-alts/

    Donelle O'Brien

    3/11/2011

  • I can totally understand your doubts about the signing-up-process. but I also can imagine that it is difficult for an operator of a social network especially for younger students. how to prove the accuracy of the statements and to verificate that it´s really the parents that sign up? in fact also the credit card number cannot avoid a misusage. I´m sure there are many kids in the age of 13/14 that know how to get the last four numbers of their parents´ card.

    lingi

    3/24/2011

  • It is frightening to me that many kids are able to just sign up for anything online. Kids can misrepresent themselves online and see absolutely nothing wrong with it. They potentially could put themselves in danger. They are able to sign up for sites and there is no accountability for the information that is put into the site registration. This scares me. I think we need to help teach kids to be responsible digital citizens and that means making ethical decisions. Many kids have the perception that everything online is trustworthy and it contains factual information and that those “you won a free laptop” pop-ups are true. Many kids as well as parents are completely unaware of terms of service of many sites out there. It starts with responsible registration and ownership of one’s actions.

    Karen R

    4/2/2011

  • Thanks for posting this! I think this will help a lot of people.

    xlpharmacy

    11/28/2011

  • good news for people who live in the cold place

  • I don’t see a big problem of letting the kids have social network accounts. Although, there are cases about minors committing crimes and minors that are victims of crimes because of social networks, there are still advantages of why they can still use it.
    It still depends on how the parents teach them and how they discipline their children.